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This story first appeared in the March 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
By early afternoon on Feb. 26, film distributors started to see grosses for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny pop up on reporting service comScore. Then they disappeared.
Netflix and Imax decided not to disclose opening-weekend grosses, sparking buzz the numbers weren’t good. The film’s release was controversial from the get-go. Cinema owners who operate Imax screens were furious in fall 2014 when Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and Imax announced a deal to make the long-awaited follow-up to Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film, released in 2000, available on the streaming service and Imax theaters at the same time. Imax, the film’s U.S. distributor, backed off, and the film later was pushed from August to now.
Yuen Woo-ping‘s Sword of Destiny, whose lead producer is The Weinstein Co., ultimately opened in only 10 to 12 Imax sites. Netflix, notoriously secretive about viewership numbers on its streaming service, did not comment when queried about the reason for not reporting grosses. Ditto for Imax. “Who does that? This is a theatrical run like any other,” says a studio executive. While it’s true the company’s business model doesn’t rely on theatrical returns, no one wants to be tied to a perceived box-office failure. In the fall, Beasts of No Nation — the first original movie from Netflix — only made $90,777 in a smattering of theaters willing to play it. (The poor showing might have hurt the film’s Oscar campaign).
The good news: Sword of Destiny has grossed nearly $36 million at the overseas box office, the majority from China.
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